How to Decide Between Airbrush and Traditional Wedding Makeup

Can't choose? This guide is for you.
lauren whalley headshot
Lauren Whalley
lauren whalley headshot
Lauren Whalley
Fashion Editor, Beauty & Inclusivity
  • Lauren writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in fashion, beauty and size inclusivity.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Lauren worked in wedding editorial for Brides, Style Me Pretty and Enaura Bridal.
  • Lauren studied public relations and advertising at the University of Central Florida.
Updated May 23, 2024

On the big day, you're going to want to look your best, which also means you want your skin to look amazing. Deciding between airbrush versus traditional makeup is one way to get flawless skin for the wedding. But it's important to know that when it comes to types of foundations, there are pros and cons to each technique. Sure, when done correctly, an airbrush finish can give you the complexion of your dreams, but there are also some drawbacks to consider before you commit.

So how do you decide if airbrush versus regular makeup is right for you? We consulted Brittany Lo, the founder and CEO of NYC-based beauty services company Beautini. Together, we're answering your biggest questions, like "How long does airbrush makeup last?" and "What are the benefits of airbrush makeup?" Whatever you decide, work with your makeup artist to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident on your special day—with or without airbrush.

In this article:

What Is Airbrush Makeup?

Airbrush makeup uses the power of compressed air to mist foundation gently across your skin using special foundation cartridges that fit into a corresponding makeup airbrushing device. You may have seen makeup artists putting airbrush makeup on celebrities before they walk down the red carpet or step in front of the cameras. Typically, these systems include a small pen-like applicator that sprays the foundation. Why might you want to try airbrush bridal makeup? Brittany Lo shares everything you need to know below.

Airbrush vs. Traditional Makeup

As stated above, airbrushing uses the power of compressed air to mist foundation onto your face, as opposed to using a brush, fingers or a sponge. When it comes time to decide between airbrush versus traditional makeup, it mostly comes down to the longevity and thickness. If you don't want to feel like you're wearing a heavy coat of foundation, this method is for you. Lo explains that airbrush makeup requires less product but can give you more coverage because of the spray application process. Is airbrushed makeup right for you? It's ideal for people who:

  • Don't want to have to keep slipping away during their wedding to touch up their makeup.

  • Want the smooth finish airbrushed makeup offers.

  • Prefer lightweight makeup that won't distract them during their big day.

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Benefits of Airbrush Makeup

Here are a few of the main reasons you might want to go with airbrush makeup versus traditional:

  • Longevity: Because airbrush makeup is sweat-resistant and transfer-proof, it lasts longer than traditional foundation.
  • Coverage: Since it's easy to layer, airbrushing allows for customizable coverage.
  • Finish: Airbrush makeup has a natural-looking finish that photographs beautifully.
  • Feel: Even with a fuller coverage look, airbrush makeup feels incredibly lightweight.

Disadvantages of Airbrush Makeup

While airbrush makeup certainly has its pros, here are some disadvantages you may want to consider when making your decision:

  • Price Point: Airbrush makeup is typically more expensive than traditional makeup.
  • Shade Range: Unlike traditional foundation, shades are usually limited when it comes to airbrush makeup.
  • Skin Type: Airbrush makeup can appear flaky on those with dry or acne-prone skin.
  • Touch-Ups: Due to the fast-drying nature of airbrush makeup, it can be difficult to touch up once it sets.
Airbrush vs. Traditional wedding makeup pros & cons
Illustration: Natalie Romine for The Knot

How Long It Lasts

When it comes to longevity, airbrush makeup is a better choice than traditional. Airbrush makeup can last about 12 hours, sometimes even longer. Lo explains that most airbrush makeup is silicone-based, which means it's more water-resistant than regular makeup. Meaning, it will withstand all the hugging and kissing that will inevitably happen throughout your wedding day. Besides, you most certainly don't want to waste precious time touching up foundation because your makeup faded.

How It Gets Applied

Airbrush makeup is applied using a small pen-like applicator that sprays the foundation onto the skin. Doing so allows for your makeup to be applied evenly for an impeccably smooth finish, Lo explains, making it perfect for the hundreds of pictures that you'll be taking all day.

The Coverage

When it comes to airbrush makeup pros and cons, the customizable level of coverage is definitely a pro. Whether you prefer light coverage or love a full face, the layers of airbrush you want is totally up to you. Since airbrush makeup can be applied in such fine layers, it dries super quickly, which means you can add more layers for extra coverage if you want.

Shade Matching

One of the drawbacks of this particular beauty service is the lack of shade ranges. The type of foundation formula used with airbrushing is different from everyday foundation, and there can be a limited selection of shades and brands to choose from. You may find that your skin matches better with traditional foundation. If your exact shade match isn't available, they can be mixed and matched to create the perfect custom color. Doing this on your own may be difficult unless you're a properly trained makeup professional.

How Much It Costs

Airbrush makeup for your wedding will typically cost around $100 to $200, though prices vary. Most professional makeup artists will consider airbrush an add-on service, meaning it's typically more expensive than your regular makeup application. Is airbrushing something you need? That really depends on your wedding goals and whether you think the benefits of airbrush makeup are worth the extra cost. If you plan to pay for your bridal party's services as well, airbrush makeup may not be a very cost-effective choice. Curious about trying airbrush makeup versus regular makeup? Lo recommends asking about it during your makeup trial, which is the ideal time to see if airbrush makeup is worth the price tag.

How It Photographs

Simply put, airbrush makeup looks beautiful in pictures. It's also a great upgrade choice for brides who love a more natural bridal makeup look. If you're wanting a full-coverage, glam look for your wedding photos, it may be best to stick to traditional foundations and application methods.

How to Hire an Airbrush Makeup Artist for Your Wedding

The perfect airbrush makeup finish comes with a lot of technique and practice, which is why we always recommend hiring a pro. When looking for a makeup artist, check out online reviews and ask to see examples of their airbrush makeup for brides so you can get a better idea of their style. If their website says they offer the service, but you can't find any pictures, don't hesitate to ask. If you're still unsure if airbrush makeup is a good fit for you, see if you can try it out at your hair and makeup trial. Your artist can help you decide based on your skin type and goals.

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